One of the most highly publicized rape cases to emerge out of Pakistan in the recent past was that of Mukhtaran Mai and today saw its culmination in the worst of fashions.
Mukhtaran Mai was sentenced to a gang rape by a tribal council system of jirgah/jirga, in the province of Punjab. Her fault was nothing else other than being the sister of a 12 year old boy who was ‘seen’ in the company of the women from the other, more influential and powerful tribe.
Several men were initially caught and six of them were sentenced to death for the gang rape, while eight others were acquitted within three months through Anti-Terrorism Court during Pervez Musharraf’s government. Later, five of them were acquitted by the Lahore High Court and the death sentence of the sixth individual was reduced to life.
In jumped Pakistan’s much touted ‘free judiciary’. Nearly a decade later, one drawn out appeal after another, the Supreme Court of Pakistan upholds the decision taken by the Lahore High Court and acquits 5 out of 6 of Mukhtaran Mai’s rapists.
For all the Pakistanis and the world media following the upheaval in the life of Mukhtaran Mai and her trial through the past decade, the verdict comes as a huge disappointment. The gross violation of human rights and women’s rights and more importantly, the joke that has been made out of the trial is nothing short of cruel.
Mukhtaran Mai hasn’t said much when asked about her reaction to the Supreme Court’s verdict. Local media from Pakistan quotes Mai as saying: I have left my fate in the hands of God. She further added that she did not receive a just sentence.
Whatever be the end, the reality is that those who gang-raped Mukhtaran Mai are free. Whether Mukhtaran Mai appeals or not, the case highlights the Pakistani government’s shortcomings in dealing with violence against women – a very common occurrence in the country. It also highlights the injustice and the persecution of rape victims – the distress they have to go through thanks to the largely inefficient system.